Breaking down 2021’s final Strength Index numbers: Who were the top teams in the Big Central, statewide? Who gained the most?

It was a busy 2021 high school football season, and a long one. Maybe that’s because 2020 was so short?

But it was a good busy, and the good kind of long. Very few teams – though a couple notable ones – had issues with COVID, and most played a full season. We got all the way through the 2021 playoffs, right down to regional champs for the last time ever, before 2022 ushers in the era of football Group Champions, just like every other sport in New Jersey.

Central Jersey Sports Radio has run the numbers, and calculated the unofficial final 2021 Strength Index values for every team in the state of New Jersey. And we’re sharing them with you.

The SI values are locked in after Week Eight of the regular season, in an effort to cut down on the uncertainty heading into Week 9 for playoff qualification. But since SI values are based on the previous year, then typically re-centered a third of the way up or down to a mid-point of 60 before the next season begins, that means SI must still be calculated “behind the scenes” for all games after Week 8, including consolation games (now called “regional crossovers”), playoffs and Thanksgiving games.

We did all of that, and the results follow. It should be noted that while Gridiron New Jersey is the official calculator of Strength Index, Power Points, and OSI, the website no longer has a week-by-week listing of results, so our results were compiled only with what was available on We did not verify ever score in the state since Week 8 (hundreds of games) with Gridiron New Jersey. Some out-of-state Strength index numbers also were unavailable, such as the number for Easton (PA), which beat Phillipsburg on Thanksgiving. So, the Stateliners’ SI value may be off slightly. All our numbers and calculations are unofficial, but we believe accurate enough to paint a proper portrait of the statewide picture, and how the Big Central fared.

We’ll start talking about the BCC itself. The Top Ten teams are:

  1. Hillsborough, 97.10
  2. Union, 93.18
  3. Cranford, 84.27
  4. Somerville, 82.93
  5. Ridge, 80.52
  6. Phillipsburg, 79.84
  7. St. Thomas Aquinas, 79.16
  8. Sayreville, 77.68
  9. Colonia, 75.51
  10. North Hunterdon, 74.17

Click here for a PDF version of the full list of the unofficial 2021 final Big Central Strength Index numbers.

Statewide, Hillsborough finished in the Top Ten for Strength Index, Checking in at No. 9. Union – whose season was cut short after the first round of the playoffs due to COVID – finished 16th. Others that finished in the Top 50 – out of well over 300 teams in the state – included Cranford at 32, Somerville at 40, Ridge at 46, Phillipsburg at 47, and St. Thomas Aquinas at 49.

The Top 20 teams are:

  1. Bergen Catholic, 111.16
  2. Millville, 103.59
  3. Cedar Creek, 101.76
  4. St. Joeseph-Hammonton, 101.11
  5. West Morris, 98.09
  6. Don Bosco Prep, 97.38
  7. Red Bank Catholic, 97.25
  8. Donovan Catholic, 97.22
  9. Hillsborough, 97.10
  10. Caldwell, 96.94
  11. Northern Highlands, 95.48
  12. DePaul, 94.25
  13. Woodrow Wilson, 94.22
  14. St. Augustine, 93.48
  15. Rumson-Fair Haven, 93.19
  16. Union, 93.18
  17. Seton Hall Prep, 93.05
  18. St. Peter’s Prep, 92.62
  19. Winslow Twp., 90.62
  20. Salem, 89.00

Click here for a PDF version of the full list of the unofficial 2021 final Strength Index numbers.

So who were the biggest gainers in the Big Central Conference in 2021? Inotherwords, who had the biggest turnarounds? With Strength Index, keep in mind, it’s not about wins and losses. It’s about score, and how competitive a team is. If a football team played opponents generally ranked 30 points higher than them, but lost all their games by only a field goal, they would gain a good deal, and be considered a “stronger” team by the Strength Index model, even though they may have been winless.

In the Big Central, it’s little surprise St. Thomas Aquinas saw the biggest gain. Finishing 4-6 in 2019 and 4-3 in 2020, the Trojans went 9-1 this season, winning seven of those games by large margins. They also shut out their first seven opponents of the season. Aquinas went from a 52.93 in preseason to a 79.16; not the highest in the Big Central, but the biggest gain, going up by 26.23 points in the Strength index category.

Hillsborough saw a gain of 24.01 points, going 13-0 this season after a 4-4 2020 campaign. They started the season a highly-respectable 73.09, but finished with a 97.10 Strength Index rating, ninth best in the state.

Other jumps of double digits included Colonia (+22.87), Union (+17.83), North Hunterdon (+17.04), Sayreville (+14.88), East Brunswick (+12.10), Cranford (+11.67) and Metuchen (+10.38).

Click here for the full unofficial list of Big Central Strength Index changes in 2021.

Overall, two-thirds of the league – 40 of the 60 Big Central teams – saw changes of fewer than 10 points in either direction, and 36 of them saw changes of seven points or fewer. Essentially, that means 36 teams are plus or minus within a touchdown of where they were the year before. That’s basically a toss-up game, and a negligible difference at best.

Even more teams would be within that “touchdown” change heading into 2022, after re-centering, which brings teams a third of the way in either direction back to 60. In other words, a team with a 51 rating would gain one-third of the way to 60, or three of the nine points, and they would become a 54. A 72 rated team would become a 68, and so on. About 43 of the 60 league teams would be in that category.

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